Mayor Nenshi says 2026 Olympic opportunity ‘a great deal for Calgary’

Mayor Naheed Nenshi on the importance of the Olympic bid Plebiscite
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi joins Global News Morning Calgary to discuss the importance of the upcoming Olympic bid plebiscite.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city is “quite divided” on the question of whether Calgary should host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.

Appearing on Global News Morning Calgary on Monday, Nenshi said he thinks the yes side has a lot of momentum going into the vote.

“But it really depends which voters are more motivated,” he said. “And you know what? Everyone should be motivated, regardless of what side you stand.”

READ MORE: Both sides of Calgary 2026 Olympic bid rally in final countdown to plebiscite

Nenshi said this has been a project he’s been working on “for years” but his focus has been on getting a good deal for Calgary.

“We didn’t have that deal up to ten or 11 days ago,” he said.

“And certainly the way that we got there is not something I would have liked… I don’t think anyone would have chosen that particular path to get to a deal. It was pretty gross.”

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He said he “put everything in a drawer” and concluded that the agreement being offered by the three levels of government will be good for the city.

“Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that not only is it a good deal for Calgary, but a great deal for Calgary,” he said.

He said the amount of investment in the city will be substantial, including new affordable housing and a new field house.

“For a relatively small outlay from the city, we’re getting [the] incredible benefit and to me, that means I’m voting yes.”

READ MORE: Calgary 2026 releases renderings of potential Olympic venues, including new field house

The mayor added that while it’s important to address issues like Calgary’s low downtown office vacancy rate, it’s about investing in the medium- and long-term.

“I remind people that when Calgary was awarded the ’88 Games, that was in 1981, so it was in the depths of the worst recession we’ve ever seen. And the Olympics certainly didn’t solve it but they were one of many many tools in that toolbox that helped pull us out of that.”

The issue about a downtown arena for the Flames being part of the Olympic bid was quickly shot down by the mayor. He said even if there’s no new arena in time for a possible 2026 Olympics, “we’ll still be able to run an Olympics with great facilities.”

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“This Olympic deal was never meant to be a front to get a new arena. I think that would have been very unfair and very disingenuous,” he said.

“It’s important to note that these are separate issues.”

The mayor was confident that there would be little to no cost overruns. But acknowledged that one area — security — could be troublesome.

“If Canada is at war, or God forbid there were terrorist attacks, we could see the cost of security increase, but ultimately, that is the federal government’s responsibility as there would be if there weren’t an Olympics,” he said.

To learn how you can cast a ballot on Tuesday, visit our explainer page.

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